3-Act Tasks

I am committing to doing 3-act tasks in my classroom for the next half of the year. It’s going to start a bit slow with the next two weeks on transformations (I’m doing the Ms. Pac-Man task from Robert Kaplinsky and a few smaller tasks but that’s it), but after that we’ll do pop box, Guatemalan Sinkhole and meatball tasks in our 3-D geometry unit. I’m spending a bunch of time over break planning these tasks, and in particular planning what I expect students to be doing during the task to make sure that all students are working productively for as much of the time as possible.

My question is: Many tasks come with excellent sequels as extension questions. I’m most nervous about this aspect of a 3-act. I want to give my students who work more slowly time to work through the heart of the task, so I need an extension for my higher-skilled students. This makes partner work awkward–do I ask students who work quickly to stop and wait, or help slower partners? Do I group students homogeneously? Do I build in more independent work time? I really want the momentum in the room to be positive and productive during this part of the task–if students who finish get off-task, students who are struggling are likely to give up and I’ll see rapidly diminishing returns. Anyone have any advice?

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